Prisons and Probation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:58 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 12:58 pm, 14th May 2019

This House is a place for cautious optimism, which is very appropriate—not perhaps on all sides.

My hon. Friend Mary Creagh makes an important point about environmental sustainability. When there is not sufficient accountability, when profit is being pursued, the price is often paid not only by prisoners and wider society but by the environment. I am glad that the public are increasingly mindful of those important issues.

In 2013 the then Justice Secretary announced the break-up and part-privatisation of the award-winning probation service. Can anyone guess who it was? Of course, it was the current Transport Secretary. Probation does not get the attention of the Prison Service, but it should because it manages a quarter of a million offenders in our communities—around 400 in each constituency on average.

After part-privatisation, 21 private sector community rehabilitation companies manage, or rather mismanage, 150,000 offenders. The Conservatives’ part-privatisation of probation has been a reckless and costly experiment that has failed to protect the public, fragmenting and damaging an award-winning service. Serious reoffending has soared, supervision is severely overstretched and hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted on bailing out a broken system. It could well be the current Transport Secretary’s most damaging failure—a high bar indeed.